Total cop-out as competition gives no 1st or 2nd but three 3rd prizes

Total cop-out as competition gives no 1st or 2nd but three 3rd prizes


norman lebrecht

November 01, 2021

The Geneva International Music Competition found a jury for its oboe section that could not walk and chew gum at the same time.

Having decided that none of the contestants was worth first or second prize, they divided third prize among three of them – a risible act of indecision.

The non-winners were:

Natalia Auli (26 years old, Venezuela),

Louis Baumann (26 years old, France)

and Zhiyu Sandy Xu (28 years old, Australia).



  • Bone says:

    I’d be curious to know the judges’ rationale for their collective decision.
    Not telling anyone how to do their job, but if there were a reporter or “insider” type journalist out there who could pursue an inquiry…
    Otherwise, we are stuck with 1/2 the story (not the fact based half, either – just the opinion half).

  • Rudiger says:

    For those interested, the final round is available on Youtube –

  • SOYS says:

    Did you watch the competition? Were you there? It is perhaps a sad outcome for the participants but if you had actually followed the competitions throughout the years and throughout its course this year you would know that this result did not come from indecision.

  • BRUCEB says:

    As others have pointed out in response to complaints about past competitions: the contestants are competing against a standard, not each other. It’s not like track & field, where you can win a slow race just by being less slow than everyone else.

    If the judges agree that no one measured up to the standard for first or second place, but 3 people met the standard for third, then that’s what they award. A different jury might make a different decision, but all competitions are a roll of the dice in that regard.

  • Jehi Bahk says:

    That practice has been common at some Italian or other competitions which ran out of money…

  • M McAlpine says:

    What the jury are really saying in this is that none of the contestants were up to standard and neither was the competition.

  • Barnum says:

    They should issue a joint statement saying they regret coming. They are hurt not helped. Insulted publicly in fact.

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    Bear in mind that even the iconic giants Bourgue and Lencses were second prize winners in this competition – no first prize was awarded in those years!

  • Kyle A Wiedmeyer says:

    Mostly unrelated to this article but I can’t help but wonder: if the American sound and style of oboe playing is so different than much of the rest of the world, will there ever be an American in one of these international competitions?

    • Gerry McDonald says:

      Alex Klein (ok Brazilian, but “American school” of oboe playing) won first prize at Geneva – the first to do so since Holliger, after a gap of about three decades!

    • Wai Kit Leung says:

      There was an American contestant this year.

  • Una says:

    A good competition should be emphasising that it’s about competing against a certain standard not about competing against other competitors. A good jury will also know what they are looking for.

  • It doesn't mean you're terrible. says:

    It’s an unfortunate situation, but this is the nature of competitions. The youtube recording shows that none of these three fine oboists performed the Strauss concerto on that day at a level worthy of first–or even second–prize.

    There are well-known oboists who would have followed this story, but I doubt that any would defend the performances as worthy of a first prize at Geneva.

    And will we see a “Pogorelich” situation here, where failure to win first prize still results in international bookings because of the controversy? Will any of these three performances compel agents or conductors to book these players to play the Strauss concerto? Mmm…no.

  • Neil Yates says:

    I’m not too surprised. In the first Alienor Harpsichord Composition Awards there was over 200 entries submitted. After long consideration, the jury panel decided to award no prize whatsoever!

  • Gerry McDonald says:

    Another thought is that some of the finest players will not see competitions as part of their career path. Artists such as Han de Vries (principal of the Concertgebow aged 22) and more recently Bloomfield (joint principal of the Philharmonia aged 22) seem to have done alright without them!